A Life in Fresh Air

A Life in Fresh Air What happens after the guns have stopped firing and war has ended? How can rival factions be reconciled and harmony restored? As America struggles to come to terms with these issues in Iraq, this documentary takes a look at village life in war-ravished Croatia. Through personal anecdotes and reflections, a picture emerges of a village still coming to terms with its painful past. Wrought with moments of pathos and compassion, this film provides an intricate snapshot of post-war life.
The charming rural village of Đulovac was torn apart by bitter ethnic divisions during the war. In August 1991, the Serbs turned against their Croat neighbours. "They started putting up barricades, rounding up our people," recalls one villager. "They went from house to house, killing everyone they found." Even now, it's clear that these wounds are still extremely painful. "When you think about the war and everything you just grow numb," confides Drago Hodak, Head of Đulovac County.

Four months after constructing the barricades, the Serbs themselves were forced out of Đulovac. The Croatian government gave Serb houses to Croats fleeing persecution from Kosovo. However, these new arrivals caused additional tensions in the village. "To be frank, I was the only one who accepted them wholeheartedly," confides one old lady. "When they came, people looked at them as if they were gypsies."

Now Serbian refugees are returning and claiming back their houses, triggering a wave of property disputes with the Kosovan Croats. "We can't get into our house because there are people in it," complains one Serb returnee. Another is concerned that the new Kosovan inhabitants have damaged her barn. The council tries to deal with these problems by purchasing new houses for Croats to enable the Serbs to move into their old homes. "The Croats from Kosovo and the Serb returnee should have a good relationship," lectures one council administrator. "It's in our common interest to resolve property disputes in a way that maintains good ethnic relationships."

Despite the council's best efforts, there is still an underlying fear that one day, Croats may be forced out to make way for returning Serbs. The local parties are quick to exploit this fear. At a Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) political rally, men pay attention to their politicians' speeches: "No one has been thrown out into the street yet and no one will be as long as the CDU is in a majority of the local government," pledges Bobetko, a Croat from Kosovo. They are quick to condemn rival parties: "The SWP is comprised of Serbs only ... they are all rooting against you, throwing dust into your eyes."

As the local elections draw closer, tensions escalate. "The Serbs will have the right to vote and if the SWP organizes them, we're in for it," fears a Croatian Political leader. However others believe that peaceful co-existence can be achieved, whatever the political outcome: "I believe it's going to be okay," states one Serb returnee.

Dir: Danko Volaric
Factum Productions

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more info see our Cookies Policy